Vampire Trouble, page 1
Copyright © 2014 by Sara Humphreys
Cover and internal design © 2014 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Cover design by Jamie Warren
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The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.
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About the Author
For my family…
“When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses.”
—Dr. Joyce Brothers
The air around him was void of the normally incessant sound of fluttering human heartbeats or the typical noises of New York City nightlife. No honking horns. No inane human conversation. Nothing.
For a split second, Shane thought he’d awakened somewhere other than his apartment within the Presidium’s New York facility. Standing ramrod straight, fangs bared and senses sharp, he surveyed the empty, hauntingly quiet Manhattan street.
Shane Quesada hadn’t been blanketed by silence like this in more than four hundred years, not since that fateful summer night so long ago. Though it had been centuries, he still recalled that hot August evening with vivid clarity. The mysterious woman visiting his village seduced him, turned him and then after toying with Shane for a century, Selena left the way she’d found him. Broken and alone.
That man—the one who wept for the woman who abandoned him—no longer existed, and Shane knew this particular moment was certainly not the time to revisit that period of weakness. Shutting down the unpleasant memory with the cold, calculating demeanor of a vampire sentry, he focused on figuring out where in the hell he was.
As he struggled to understand what was happening, his hands balled into fists and his jaw clenched. He could see he was standing outside The Coven, the club owned by one of the new czars of New York City, Olivia Hollingsworth. He’d frequented the place most nights over the past several months, but certainly not for the ear-shattering music, the stench of sweating humans, or the undrinkable swill that was served.
Instead, the blond, youngling vampire bartender had captured Shane’s interest and drawn him there night after night. Most evenings he wouldn’t stay long, only a few minutes before or after his sweeps of the city, but he’d discovered that skipping even one night made him surprisingly agitated. Even if only a moment or two, he simply had to have a glimpse of her. Maya Robertson, the flirtatious beauty who had a penchant for toying with human men, had become both the bane of his existence and the object of his long-dormant desire.
It had been years since he actually wanted a woman for more than her blood. However, the moment Shane encountered the curvaceous beauty with the compelling blue eyes, lust gnawed at him. His sudden and instant attraction to the beautiful little vampire was highly unsettling. The nagging, pulsing need for her clawed relentlessly, deep in his gut, and even though he wanted nothing more than to claim her, Shane resisted.
He had no time for an emotional entanglement, let alone with one of the czar’s progeny. Emotions were dangerous and distracting. He was known as one of the finest and most focused sentries within the Presidium’s ranks, and he had no interest in losing his position or getting sloppy.
Aside from the fact that Maya was a youngling, only turned five years ago, she was reckless. And if there was one thing Shane couldn’t abide, it was recklessness. Maya had a fondness for human men, and from what he could tell, she’d taken many of them to her bed. His jaw clenched and anger fired through him at the mere thought of her with another man.
Shaking his head, he set his mouth in a tight line and fought to remove the image of her gorgeous oval-shaped face from his mind. Her skin was fair with not a freckle on it, and the only things more alluring than her hourglass figure were her enormous blue eyes. They were almost lavender, and she seemed fully aware of their hypnotic power. Maya might not be able to glamour Shane or any other vampire the way she could a human, but she certainly seemed to have him under her spell.
The woman had become a distraction, and in his line of work, things like that could get a vampire dusted. Shane sharpened his focus and tried to concentrate on the matter at hand—where the fuck he was and why the city had suddenly fallen silent.
What he found even more perplexing than the unsettling quiet was that the world around him was painted in black and white. Normally, with the night vision of a vampire, he would see the colorful world in varying shades of sepia tones, but not now. He blinked and turned slowly, surveying the familiar neighborhood, but things remained colorless and mute, as though he’d stepped into a silent film. There wasn’t a flicker of color anywhere, and the only sound was from his bare feet as he moved along the sidewalk.
He looked down to find that he wasn’t wearing his sentry uniform, only a thin pair of cotton pajama pants. The same ones he’d put on before going to sleep for the day. He held his arms out and looked disapprovingly at his outright state of undress.
What the hell was going on? He would never in his right mind leave his apartment in only his pajamas. As a sentry and well-known soldier for the Presidium, he had made far too many enemies over the years to leave his home unarmed—let alone half-naked.
Shane stilled when the realization of where he was washed over him.
He was walking in the dreamscape for the first time in almost four hundred years. A smile cracked his face and he ran both hands through his dark, thick hair while looking around in pure awe. The absence of dreams was something he’d grown accustomed to and hadn’t particularly missed. When he’d finally stopped dreaming, about ten years after being turned, it was the last step to letting go of his human life.
His smile faded when the gravity of what this might mean settled over him. Was he ill? Had he been bewitched in some way? Why now, after all this time, would he suddenly begin to dream again?
With those unanswered questions rattling through his mind, he saw two humans rounding the corner ahead of him. Shane stepped back into the shadows as they approached, but he kept his sights on them. The man had his arm wrapped tightly around the blond woman, who stumbled and was behaving as though she were highly intoxicated. Her hair fell over her face and she was shaking her head, trying to push the man away
Shane stilled, uncertain of what to do. Could they see him? Were they merely a part of his dream, or were they sentient dreamwalkers like he was? It became abundantly clear that neither of them could see him when the human male tugged the young woman against him and started kissing her. She pushed him away, telling her aggressor to stop, but her words fell on deaf ears.
She struggled harder, which only infuriated the man. I bought you dinner and fed you drinks all fucking night. We both know where that leads.
The brute spun the blond around and tried to kiss her again, but she continued to refuse.
No, Shane heard her whimper. I want to go home.
I don’t think so. The man looked around, certain no one was in sight, and started dragging her into the alley next to the club. I own your ass.
Fury shot up Shane’s back at the increasingly violent scene, and any restraint he felt shattered when he got a glimpse of the woman’s face. A pair of terrified and familiar lavender-blue eyes locked with his just before she was dragged into the alley. Maya.
Rage consumed him as Maya’s desperate pleas from one of the darkest corners of the city filled his head. Shane bellowed ferociously and flew out of the shadows toward the tortured cries for help. He tore ahead, expecting to find Maya with her attacker, but the tunnel of darkness seemed to go on forever.
Shane flew faster, extended his sonar-like senses in search of Maya and her whimpering calls, but all he found was a limitless void. The tunnel of darkness went on forever, with no end in sight. No sign of Maya, the city, or the bastard who attacked her. Nothing except screams in the dark.
Shane woke with a start and leaped from his bed with Maya’s name on his lips. Body tense, senses alert, and eyes wild, he stood motionless in the sparsely furnished but familiar bedroom, attempting to regain his bearings. He was no longer flying through darkness surrounded by Maya’s pain but standing alone in his studio apartment and very much awake.
Shane went to the bathroom and switched on the shower, waiting for it to become almost painfully hot. As he stood with his fingers under the steaming streams of water, anger flared at the memory of what he witnessed. Doug Paxton, Olivia’s mate and the other Czar of New York, had told Shane that Maya was brutalized on the last night of her human life, but nothing could have prepared Shane for what he saw in the dream. Knowing about it was one thing. Witnessing it and not being able to stop it—well, that was entirely another.
The empty glass bottle skittered across the mahogany bar and the beer, slick with condensation, slid easily into Maya’s hand. She winked at the handsome, young human male when he slapped down a twenty-dollar bill with black-painted fingernails and a cocky smirk. Maya made quick work of getting him a fresh drink while giving him the coquettish looks she knew he wanted.
Tonight’s boy toy was big, studly, arrogant, horny, and not the sharpest tool in the shed. Just the way she liked them. Maya tended to the two other customers at her end of the bar but didn’t miss the scolding look from Trixie, the other bartender.
Lay off, would ya? Trixie’s voice touched Maya’s mind with the familiar ease of a fellow coven member. Her coworker glanced over her shoulder and nodded toward Olivia, who was the head of their coven, their maker, and owner of the nightclub. Olivia was making her rounds before closing and like always, she kept one eye on Maya.
You know how much Olivia hates it when you mess with the customers. Trixie’s voice, edged with irritation, filled Maya’s head.
Jeez, I’m not a child, Trixie. Maya’s voice touched Trixie’s mind with an exasperated sigh, and she rolled her eyes. Leave me alone and mind your own business.
Yeah? Then you leave him alone. Trixie kept their telepathic conversation moving while tending the three customers at the other end of the bar. Come on, girl. Olivia is gonna fucking flip out if you try to feed on this guy. No more live feeds from any customers at The Coven, remember? Like it or lump it. That’s the new rule, and it’s not that new. It’s been almost six months, so I don’t know why you’re looking to break it and catch a world of shit.
Yeah? Maya flipped her long, blond hair over a bare shoulder and shot Trixie a narrow-eyed look. Well, maybe I’m sick of the rules and having everyone in my business.
Maya slammed her mind shut, preventing any further communication, which clearly annoyed Trixie. She flipped Maya the bird with a ring-studded hand and shook her head disapprovingly. Maya was so aggravated, she wanted to fly over there and yank Trixie’s pink, spiked hair right out of her head. For a girl who looked like a punk-rock rebel, Trixie was sure stuck on following the rules—and unfortunately, even in the world of vampires, there were rules and limitations.
Can’t go in the sun or risk turning to dust.
No more sterling silver jewelry because it burns like a bitch.
No feeding on customers from the club.
Blah, blah, blah.
Maya was getting sick and tired of other vampires telling her what to do at every turn. It was starting to make her crazy. So what if she liked to play with human men? She fed on them and teased them a little. She took them right to the brink of sex and then denied them the one thing they wanted—but she never hurt them. Hell, after she glamoured them, they never even remembered being with her.
Like all live feeds, Maya absorbed blood memories of her prey, and every time it confirmed her suspicions about what kind of men they were. She had a knack for picking boys who liked to hurt girls, and their blood memories always proved what her gut instinct told her. Most of the men she fed on thrived on dominating women in and out of the bedroom.
In her experience, all men wanted sex and most were driven by lust and desire. The majority of the guys Maya toyed with had used violence at some point in their lives to get sexual gratification. Sex and sexual power were all they wanted, and Maya swore she would never give that to another man again.
Nor would she let anyone take it.
Maya didn’t want to kill these men or even hurt them. She simply wanted to know she had control and possessed power she’d never had as a human woman. None of the men she had dallied with had any real memories of their time with her, but Maya did—and it was the only thing that helped quiet the nightmares.
After Olivia turned Maya, she told her that within the first ten years of being changed, all vampires stop dreaming. Maya couldn’t wait for that particular part of being a vamp to kick in because she was still having dreams.
Well, not dreams exactly. They were more like nightmares.
She let out a short laugh and punched buttons on the touch screen of the register. Dreams? Far from it. The dreams she had as a human would have been a welcome respite from the dark, frightening memory that haunted her sleep more days than she cared to count.
Maya’s final mortal night, the last terrifying minutes before she died, replayed when she slept. No matter what she did, regardless of how much she begged and pleaded, her attacker didn’t stop. In fact, her cries seemed to excite him more. No one heard her screams for help or her whimpering pleas from the alley, at least not until it was too late.
That’s where Olivia had found her five years ago. Raped, beaten, and a heartbeat away from death in the alley behind the club. Left there like garbage by a man who treated her like less than nothing. He was like so many other men who passed through this club night after night, looking for a woman to use and abuse with no second thoughts, no remorse.
During the first few days after Maya was turned, she didn’t remember what had happened. In fact, most of her human life was a fuzzy blur. But about a week after she became a vamp, the nightmares started and horrifying terror came with them. She never felt safe, but more than anything else, she loathed feeling like a victim.
Before Maya moved into her own apartment beneath the club, she’d stayed in the guest room of Olivia’s place. Some nights Maya’s cries woke her maker and she woul
To speak of it with anyone would only feed the fear. The only thing that helped ease Maya’s anxiety and gave her some semblance of control was to dominate the human boys who attempted to seduce her. Sometimes, it would even keep the nightmare away for a sleep or two, but eventually the dark memory always came back.
Maya closed out Spike’s tab and slid his receipt to him with one pink manicured nail. She smiled, knowing how easily his human mind could be manipulated by the glamour of a vampire. Male or female, no human was a match for her kind, which meant Maya could play all she wanted. There was never any question about who would come out on top, and that was just how she liked it.
Spike was babbling on and on about his motorcycle and how hot she would think it was to ride on it. Maya smiled and fiddled with the teardrop-shaped emerald in her gold necklace, playing up the dumb-blond bit, pretending to be impressed by his blathering.
The smooth, cool stone whispered beneath her fingers, and she fiddled with the ropy gold chain. Though she wore the necklace every day, there was always something soothing about holding the heirloom in her hands. She had no idea why. Her foggy, jumbled memories of her human life were like puzzle pieces scattered on the floor.
However, she suspected the necklace had been in her human family for generations. When she concentrated and really focused, Maya could picture a smiling, elderly lady wearing the necklace. Her gut instinct told her it was her grandmother, and most of the disjointed memories she had included this woman.
The sad truth was that she had no clue who her family had been or who she had been. When Olivia found Maya, she carried no identification, and in the days following the incident, there were no missing persons reports on the news with her picture. Olivia even did an extensive search online but nothing showed up. Even Maya’s blood memories were limited to the night she was killed, and the only other piece of information Olivia was able to get was Maya’s name.
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